Schwen wins world title as first degree black belt
By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer
July 20, 2008 - When it comes to competing in martial arts, winning a world title is a goal many students dream about during their training.
For Sulphur Springs resident Josh Schwen, that dream became a reality June 26-27 at the Little Rock Convention Center in Arkansas.
Schwen - who was a first degree black belt at the time - won the world title in the 17-through-29-year-old weapons division over nine other competitors during the two-day event.
Earlier in the year, Josh won the first-degree black belt state championship in the same category to advance to the World Championships. He was also a top ten qualifier in forms at state.
He said winning both titles showed how hard he has worked at the Sulphur Springs ATA Black Belt Academy this season.
"It was pretty important," Schwen said, the son of Jack and Lois Schwen. "It was really nice to see everyone supporting me in what I was doing. From the people at my church to the people at the gym, they helped me realize how important it really was. When I won, everybody was jumping up and down, and it was really cool to see."
On the day of the competition, Schwen was the final participant in his ranking to do his form, and he said throughout the competition his nerves were catching up to him.
"The competition was pretty tough. I came into it as the last person to compete and it has some disadvantages," he said. "You have to watch everyone else do their forms and you start questioning what the other people are doing.
"It gives your nerves a chance to catch up and sometimes you wish you could go first and just get it over with. The competition was awesome because I got to see people I have not seen since the start of the competition year and ultimately I got to beat all of them."
He said his toughest competition came from Indiana's Cory Whickcar - who was in first place heading into the world championships. By the end of the night, Schwen finished on top of the podium.
"He ended up getting second, but the scores were a definite win for me," he said. "The highest the scores go are a nine, and I got a two nines and an eight. He finished the competition with two sevens and a six, so it was a definite win for me."
The highlight of winning the title happened when he returned back to the ATA studio and went to the gymnastics studio prior to the start of a workout.
"I remember after I won it, I had to go over to the gymnastics studio to get a bag of ice and they stopped their classes to congratulate me," he said. "I thought that was pretty cool they would do that."
Following a ranking ceremony last Tuesday night, Josh received his second degree black belt from the ATA academy.
He said winning the title as a first-degree black belt made things easier for him heading into his tougher competition when their season starts Aug. 22-23 at Southfork Ranch.
"It was very interesting because I knew if I won this I would be competing as a second degree next year, so I knew I would not have as good of a chance in the second degree ring since it is my first year," he said. "I wanted to get it done this year so I did not have to worry about things next year."
Josh said all of the prayers and support he received from the community played a huge role in him winning his two titles this year.
"I want to thank my parents, the Lord for giving me the talent to do this and all of the people that were praying for me during the World Championships," he said. "I had people from California to Pennsylvania praying for me, and I did not know about that until after the competition."